August 16, 2021

Naperville Group Seeks To Preserve Kroehler YMCA Building

A local group is trying to keep the history of the Kroehler YMCA alive.

Over a year after the century-old YMCA location closed due to long-term financial hardship, Naperville Preservation, Inc. has filed for the building to be added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Kroehler YMCA History

According to Naperville Preservation, Inc. President Becky Simon, the Kroehler YMCA’s registration as a historic site “would give it the recognition it deserves as a place in the heart of Naperville.”

The Kroehler YMCA is nestled between two historic landmarks in Naperville’s historic district: the Old Nichols Library and the Naperville Woman’s Club.

The building opened in 1911 after former Naperville mayor and businessman Peter Kroehler led a campaign for the 3,400-strong town to raise construction money. It served as a community hub as the city grew over the next century.

“For many, many years, there were meetings, community organizations met here, the Rotary met here, new citizens in Naperville learned English language here, and countless thousands of Napervillians learned how to swim at the Naperville YMCA,” Simon said.

Benefits Of Registration

Inclusion in the National Register of Historic Places wouldn’t necessarily protect the building from demolition, but would make owners consider alternatives before demolition with federal and state tax credits awarded for redevelopment.

True protection from demolition would only come through local landmark status from the city, and Naperville Preservation, Inc. plans to apply.

Naperville City Council designates local landmarks, and only four locations are currently recognized throughout the city, including both of Kroehler YMCA’s neighboring buildings.

Adaptive Reuse

Naperville Preservation Inc’s goal for the building is “adaptive reuse,” or repurposing an existing building to fit modern needs. This concept is nothing new in Naperville.

“Right across the sidewalk here, the Old Nichols library is now condominiums and stores. Across the road, the old Naperville Post Office is now a bank, and a couple blocks east of us, Old Main, North Central College completely renovated the interior after two fires, and is still standing as a beautiful icon for North Central College and Naperville,” Simon said.

Up For Sale

The YMCA of Metropolitan Chicago is handling the sale of the building. Director of Communications Man-Yee Lee said the group sought for developers and investors to “acquire and successfully implement a new and positive purpose” for the building.

Lee said negotiations with one buyer are currently underway after a careful selection process, but did not disclose the buyer’s identity.

Naperville Preservation, Inc. is hopeful that a sale can bring new business for the future, while protecting the past.

“This is why people move to Naperville. They love our town, they love our history,” Simon said.

Naperville News 17’s Casey Flanagan reports.

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